4 September 2013, 10:47

National Security Agency spied on Brazil, Mexico

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The National Security Agency spied on the communications of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, a Brazilian news program reported.

On Sunday night when Globo's news program Fantastico was on air, US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and first broke the story about the NSA program in Britain’s Guardian newspaper after receiving thousands of documents from NSA contractor Snowden, said that a document dated June 2012 shows that Mexican President Pena Nieto’s emails were being read. The document displayed passages of written messages sent by Pena Nieto, who was still a candidate at that time. In the messages, Pena Nieto discussed, whom he was considering naming ministers if he is elected.

As for Brazil’s leader, the NSA document “doesn’t include any of Dilma’s specific intercepted messages, the way it does for Nieto,” Greenwald told. “But it is clear in several ways that her communications were intercepted, including the use of DNI Presenter, which is a program used by NSA to open and read emails and online chats.”

In July, Greenwald co-wrote articles in the O Globo newspaper that said documents leaked by Snowden indicate Brazil was the largest target in Latin America for the NSA program, which collected data on billions of emails and calls flowing through Brazil.

The Brazilian government has condemned a US spy program and labeled it an “unacceptable invasion” of sovereignty as well as called for international regulations to protect citizens and governments from cyber espionage.

The Brazilian Senate, where some members have proposed offering Snowden political asylum in Brazil, launched an inquiry into the NSA surveillance.

President Rousseff held a Cabinet meeting on Monday that included the country's defense, justice, communications and foreign ministers to discuss a possible reaction to the report.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said, “We’re going to talk with our partners, including developed and developing nations, to evaluate how they protect themselves and to see what joint measures could be taken in the face of this grave situation.”

He added that “there has to be international regulations that prohibit citizens and governments alike from being exposed to interceptions, violations of privacy and cyber attacks.”

Earlier, Sen. Ricardo Ferric, head of the Brazilian Senate’s foreign relations committee, said lawmakers had decided to formally investigate the US program’s focus on Brazil and the probe would likely start this week.

“I feel a mixture of amazement and indignation. It seems like there are no limits. When the phone of the president of the republic is monitored, it’s hard to imagine what else might be happening,” Ferraco told reporters. “It’s unacceptable that in a country like ours, where there is absolutely no climate of terrorism, that there is this type of spying.”

Justice minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo told O Globo that the contents of the documents, if confirmed, “should be considered very serious and constitute a clear violation of Brazilian sovereignty.”

“This hits not only Brazil, but the sovereignty of several countries that could have been violated in a way totally contrary to what international law establishes,” Cardozo said.

Last week, Cardozo traveled to Washington and met with US vice president Joseph Biden and other officials, seeking explanation of the situation.

The White House said it would respond to the requests of its “partners and allies” through diplomatic channels.

“While we are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

During a visit last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Brazil not to let spying revelations undermine growing trade, diplomatic and cultural relations between the two largest economies in the Americas.

Kerry said the NSA surveillance was aimed at protecting both Americans and Brazilians from terrorist attacks.

However, Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo said that US electronic surveillance goes beyond combating terrorism and has political targets and may even involve commercial espionage.


The United States is hoping to sell Brazil 36 F-18 fighter jets, but the more than $4 billion deal has been set back by the espionage scandal.

America used to spy on Brazil before and this hasn’t been forgotten.

Now Brazil plans to have new Internet cables to divert its traffic from the US as well as to introduce encrypted email system alternative to gmail in 2014.

Moreover, the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that President Dilma Rousseff is considering canceling her October trip to the US, citing unidentified Rousseff aides. The president’s office declined to comment.

On Monday, the US ambassador to Brazil met with his Brazilian counterpart. The spokesman for the US Embassy in Brazil’s capital, Dean Chaves, said in an emailed response: “We value our relationship with Brazil, understand that they have valid concerns about these disclosures, and we will continue to engage with the Brazilian government in an effort to address those concerns.”

Earlier in July, after initial reports of NSA surveillance of internet communications in Latin American nations, Mexico's President Pena Nieto said it would be “totally unacceptable” if it were revealed that the United States had spied on its neighbor and largest business partner in the region.

Mexico’s government said it had expressed its concerns to the US ambassador and directly to the US administration.

“Without assuming the information that came out in the media is accurate, Mexico’s government rejects and condemns any espionage activity on Mexican citizens that violate international law,” the Foreign Relations Department said. “This type of practice is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.”

The VoR asked Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC to assess the situation.

“Accusations come at a time when the US is trying to mend relations with Latin America, which have recently been really bad,” the expert said. They spoiled after the US refused to recognize results of Venezuelan elections and diverted the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales suspecting Snowden is on board.

The expert believes that the US should apologize for what it did and recognize that this is a new era and Latin America is not “the backyard of the US” any more as John Kerry used put it.

Meanwhile, the US is still treating Latin America as the same region it was 20 years ago, which, obviously, doesn’t work anymore.

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